Palin the Ever Lovin' Mother

What Women Really Think
Nov. 16 2009 10:16 AM

Palin the Ever Lovin' Mother

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I would really like to drive a stake in the heart of the argument, repeated once again by Sarah Palin in her book, that "there’s no better training ground for politics than motherhood." At first glance, it’s oh-so unobjectionable. Sure, let’s recognize that all the planning that goes into running a household translates into marketable and professional skills. One day you mastermind a school auction with umpteen moving parts and egos, the next you shepherd through a state budget. Right, except that in Palin's hands, the demands of motherhood aren’t a form of preparation that complements other kinds, like learning about the rest of the globe before you run for vice-president. Nope, the motherhood version of the can-do ethic makes it OK to have a know-nothing ethic as well. Hell, if you've got enough mommy moxie you can celebrate your lack of intellectual know-how. And you can spit on feminism every step of the way.

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In her review of Gail Collins' new book, Ariel Levy recounts that when Cindy McCain asked Palin how she'd handle joining the McCain ticket, Palin "looked me square in the eye," Mrs. McCain recounted, "and she said, 'You know something? I’m a mother. I can do it.’ " Levy continues:

It used to be that conservatives thought motherhood disqualified women for full-time careers; now they’ve decided that it’s a credential for higher office. All of this raises a question: why has feminism, which managed to win so many battles-the notion of a woman with a career has become perfectly unexceptionable-remained anathema to millions of women who are the beneficiaries of its success?

Why? Because women like Palin raid feminism for all the benefits it’s given us without for one second acknowledging the debt. And this is honey for their conservative base. Which brings me to another question: Why oh why did Hillary Clinton say on TV on Sunday that Palin is a person she looks forward to sitting down and talking with ? I know, I know, she was being magnanimous. And maybe she’s truly curious. But honestly, why should the Secretary of State waste her time?

Photograph of Sarah Palin by David McNew/Getty Images.

Emily Bazelon is a staff writer at the New York Times Magazine and the author of Sticks and Stones

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